P’ville District Considering Changes to Help High School Students

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Mary Fox -Alter
Pleasantville Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter

The Pleasantville Union Free School District is considering several changes at the high school in order to better serve its students.

According to Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter, district officials are currently discussing the possibility of opting out of the National School Lunch Program at the high school, due to the mounting number of restrictions that are being placed on the food that can be
served.

Fox-Alter explained that under the mandates of the program, the school would be forced to reduce the number of choices that are available for lunch each day and would also need to reduce the portion sizes of each serving.
Fox-Alter and the Board of Education are concerned that the restrictions will drive students away from purchasing a school lunch on a regular basis.

“The guidelines are so restrictive, we don’t think the kids will eat lunch at the high school anymore,” explained School Board President, Shane McGaffey.

As it stands, current guidelines require all bread products to be wheat based instead of flour based, and require all students to have a serving of fruit and vegetables. Fox-Alter explained that, over the past year the district has seen a drop-off in the number of high
school students that partake in school lunch program, which is affecting revenue for the district. In addition, many who do participate end up throwing the food in the garbage, because they don’t like it.

Fox-Alter said if the school modifies its participation at the high school level, they could serve students through a self-funded food service program. That would allow the district to continue to offer free and reduced lunches to students who qualify, but would allow for more meal options and a serving size that the district feels would be more proportionate to the needs of a high school student, she said.

“We will be providing more options and reasonable portions for our kids,” said Fox-Alter.

In addition to changing the lunch program, the Pleasantville School District is also considering eliminating the Advanced Regents Diploma.

According to state mandates, every district in New York must offer a Regents Diploma, which requires students to take five examinations across four major subject areas. For an Advanced Regents Diploma, students are required to take three additional tests, two of
which must be in trigonometry, geometry, or algebra two.

The desire for change stems from the introduction of the Common Core and the sudden changes to state tests since their implementation. In June, students were given the option to take the new Common Core Regents exam, as well as the old Regents exam, in the subject of algebra and chose the higher score for their transcript. The same class of students will be taking the new Common Core geometry exam next year.

Fox-Alter explained that performance on the new Common Core exam was not on the same level as performance on the old exam, because students and teachers were not able to adequately prepare for the new examination, due to the way the Common Core was implemented.

“I’m very concerned about the quick roll out of assessments,” Fox-Alter said. “Unlike the 3-8 [grade] assessments, the Regents ends up on a transcript. I don’t want the implementation model to hurt our high school kids.”

Fox-Alter fears that if the school continues to offer the tests for the Advanced Regents Diploma, students’ grade point averages will suffer, and eventually affect their ability to get into the colleges of their choice. She said a district-made assessment would be able to offer an equally rigorous curriculum to students who want to be challenged, but would eliminate some of the issues of the Common Core.

In addition, Fox-Alter noted that in recent years, students who had sought an advanced designation upon graduation often turned to the national level, taking Advanced Placement exams that offered an opportunity to gain college credits.

There are already other school districts in the county that do not offer the Advanced Regents Diploma, including Scarsdale, Valhalla, and Rye.

 

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